There are steps that you can take before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy to reduce your risk of preterm labor and delivery.

  • Get good prenatal care. See your healthcare provider before trying to get pregnant. See your healthcare provider regularly during your pregnancy. Go to all your prenatal appointments, even if you feel fine.
  • Get treatment for any infections. For example, if you feel burning or pain when you urinate, tell your healthcare provider. You may have a bladder infection.
  • If you take prescription drugs, ask your healthcare provider if they are safe before or during pregnancy.
  • If you use herbal supplements, stop them before trying to get pregnant. Check with your healthcare provider on the safety of any supplements before using them.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Do not skip meals.
  • Consider adding fish to your diet. It may reduce the risk of preterm birth.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stay active during your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can give you exercise guidelines.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to quit. Smoking increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including premature birth. If you quit smoking, your risk of premature birth becomes similar to that of mothers who are nonsmokers. This is just one of the many benefits of quitting.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Do not drink any alcohol while you are trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.
  • Do not use illegal drugs.

If you have a problem stopping alcohol or illegal drugs, have an honest talk with your healthcare provider.

  • Learn strategies to reduce stress.
  • Physical and emotional abuse is harmful to you and your baby. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from your healthcare provider, family, or friends. You can also call organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

To reduce the risk of preterm labor progressing to preterm delivery, learn the signs of preterm labor. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any signs of preterm labor.

Women with a history of preterm births may need to have extra care to prevent preterm labor. Your healthcare provider may recommend progesterone therapy during pregnancy or having a cerclage placed.